From CS 160 Fall 2008
Lecture on 9/8/2008
- The Structure of Games. Game Design Workshop Chap 2. Fullerton
- This will be the only reading for next lecture.
1. Chris Crawford's taxonomy of "play activities" (in the section on puzzles) distinguishes games as needing a means of "winning" the game. If you agree with this, discuss the role of victory/defeat in motivating the player. If not, pick a game without victory/defeat and discuss what other features of the game might satisfy players.
2. A serious game has objectives to affect the player (education, fitness...) beyond the game itself. The game has internal objectives during gameplay, as discussed in the reading. Think about the challenges in making external objectives "fit" with the objectives o f a typical game.
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Kai Lin Huang 06:37, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
The motivations of a player playing a game include entertainment and the feeling of winning. Although most of the time winning is not the most important factor for someone to choose to play a game, it can add more excitement for players to play because they can potentially enjoy the feeling superior by winning. Therefore, I agree with Chris Crawford that games can be differentiated by the need of winning the game. However, some games can be on the margin using this criterion, such as multi-players simulation games. For example, The Sims Online does not give any definition of winning of losing even though some players may compete by comparing their money and holdings. For this kind of game, there may not even be goals, but we cannot categorize them as “Toy—no goal” since players can have goals of owning a castle. Creativity of game designers is breaking these boundaries of setting game categories.
Making external objectives of serious games can be difficult. No matter how real the game looks like, something will not be the same as the real activity. These differences can be the user experience, the interface and the duration of the game. For example, the tennis game in Wii is so far the best simulation of playing the real tennis in the court. The barriers of this game and the real one are the missing of a real tennis ball and a real court. Running across a living room cannot be the same as running across a tennis court unless: the game display screen is as huge as a movie theater screen; the living room is as huge and empty as half a tennis court and the motion sensor can detect within the distance of half the tennis court with accuracy. It will take a fair amount of time and money to fit the external objective “fitness” into the game’s internal objective, “entertainment at home”. Especially under such economy, less average households would like to spend tens of thousands of dollars in electronic hardware such as theater screen and a big house to simulate a twenty dollar real tennis game outdoor. This will just be unworthy.
Greg Nagel 17:07, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
I disagree with Fullerton's stated need for a taxonomy of games. To me, game design is first an art, too young to try to codify or describe. Building a structure upon what we know now will only help nudge a design to local maxima, not bring us up through the leaps and bounds that we need to make. A game is built off of inspiration: an idea strong enough to push the developers lay a foundation, and enduring enough to pull them through the agony of finishing it. A structured, codified approach is the engineer's solution to this problem, but the result is a game without any soul, that only measures well against the structured, codified rubrics and does not transcend them.
That said, a common vocabulary is necessary within a single team to afford communication, and a game of any complexity could not be built without the engineering techniques necessary to manage and cooperate with a large amount of people. But the design must be free to go where it will, and it won't land anywhere new if we all see games with the same set of eyes.
Vedran Pogacnik 20:15, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
Chris Crawford’s classification of games seems to capture the types of games. The role of victory and defeat as a means of motivation is based on common psychological studies on rats: reinforcement techniques. In that study rats are given a reward (usually food) whenever they would press a button (there are many variants of the reinforcement technique study). It turns out that if they were given food consistently every time the button was pressed, they would get bored and not press the button eventually. However, if the reward was given every x pushes of the button, they would press it relentlessly. That seems to be the behavior with games for humans. The game and the puzzles of it are designed to be just difficult enough for a person not to be able to win in one go. So in fact, loosing motivates the player to try again. Once an obstacle is passed, the player will almost certainly not return to solve the problem, but move on to other challenges.
Also, as a tangent, maybe the most important role in getting the players attention in a particular game is curiosity, and not winning or losing. Tetris is a game that doesn’t have that element, but is purely based on win – loss scenario. Every level is the same, with the speed parameter being varied between levels. There is nothing new to the game but coordinating the hand – eye movement more effectively. That is why most people do not play Tetris anymore (unless they really have nothing better to do). That suggests that that victory and defeat are probably not the principal parameters that motivate a player into playing a certain game.
The main challenge in making external objectives of serious games “fit” the objectives of a typical game is fitting the entertainment parameter into a serious game. If something is beneficial to a person (like exercising or learning), chances are that a person will get tired sooner than by playing a game designed purely for entertainment purposes. That is easily observed in the difference between playing Wii tennis or playing arcade tennis. The body will get tired quicker, which will affect the player’s motivation for playing the “serious game”. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges in making a serious game is to not make the game too strenuous on the player, both physically and mentally.
Jordan Berk 20:35, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
I think one important thing missing from Fullerton's descriptions of what makes a game is the aspect of user choice. It was touched upon indirectly with the descriptions of procedures, outcome, and perhaps very loosely in a few others. However, according to the book's breakdown of games, Go Fish, for example, would still fit all of the non-dramatic catagories (with an obvious minor change to the rules), even if there was a computer telling each player which rank to ask for (randomly, let's say). But this version would really not be a game, just a showcase of randomness, at best, and certainly no fun.
Juanpadilla 21:16, 6 September 2008 (UTC)
While it is important for some game genres to have the means of "winning" it should not be used as a general statement for all games. For example, games like Second Life, World of Warcraft or The SIMS have no means of winning; yet, satisfy players by allowing them to to control and become a character in an alternate world. These games capture the emotions of the player by creating the fantasy that they are actually living in these alternative worlds, even providing communications and teamwork with other live players and in the case of Second Life, online shopping to bring the fantasy closer to reality. These realistic features satisfy the players without the need for winning.
I think it would challenges really depend on the type of game that is trying to be developed. The example above for Wii tennis is really good and makes sense for a fitness game. On the other hand, looking at the boxing game for the Wii, while not as realistic as the tennis game, the external objectives of hitting the opponent, moving and ducking fit in well with the internal objectives of having the player moving around and getting a bit of a workout while having fun at the same time. Furthermore, depending on if the game is geared more towards an educational function like some type of math or spelling game, there would be a completely different set of challenges.
Perry Lee 18:23, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Juanpadilla -- I do not believe games necessarily need a means to "win". Consider the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) genre. There are no means to win; yet, players still enjoy these games for their social interaction and character development. These games provide a virtual world to which people can escape from their day-to-day life.
One possible challenge that I see with making external objectives "fit" with the objectives of a typical game is maintaining a balance between the external objectives and internal objectives. Place too much emphasis on the objective beyond the game, and you may drive away players rather than engage them. People play games because they are fun and engaging -- not because they necessarily want to learn or to achieve that "objective [...] beyond the game itself".
For example, when I think of the serious game genre, the first thought that comes to mind is educational games for kids. If these games felt more like a lesson in disguise than a game, I do not think kids would approach them with much enthusiasm, if at all.
Yuta Morimoto 18:30, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
I disagree Chris Crawford's taxonomy of play activities. His concept clarify some differences between game and puzzle. I was confused what is the difference between game and puzzle before read his definition. Some game may not give all players a means of winning the game. for example, sometime hunting is regarded as a type game. In hunting, player(human) want to hunt animals but other player(animal) just want to escape from hunter. Although, Hunter may have the goal to win, animal may not have the goal to win but want to escape by instinct for survival.
The main challenge in making external objectives of serious games fit the objectives of a typical game is using a measures. Sometime, something that shows a visible measure of benefit to player can be driving force. For instance, Nintendo wii fit has a graph of player's weight. If the graph showing successful result, To seeing the graph fits the objectives
JoshuaKwan 22:25, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
For me, games don't necessarily need a win condition to be fun. There are games where I simply enjoy the experience, but it's true that these are few and far between.
Katamari Damacy and Portal spring to mind. These games are very zen to me in that I don't feel the need to progress. However, they do have win conditions. You need to make your katamari at least 10m in length. You need to portal over to the exit. But sometimes, you just want to roll over helpless people all day long. Sometimes, you just want to knock down the security camera and put it in a portal loop and watch it fall through at breakneck speeds.
That said, wins and losses are an effective means of encouraging the user that the way he or she is playing is effective. If you lose, that is negative feedback and encourages you to figure out what you are doing wrong.
The discussion question about serious games resonates with all the personal thoughts i've been doing brainstorming for the individual project proposal. An easy way to appeal to a wide audience (and further your serious game's objective) is to veil your objective in the guise of a typical game. Take for example the hacking minigame in BioShock. It is basically the classic Pipe Dream game that was popular in the early 90s on PCs and Macs. It has no connection to the Ayn Rand-like dystopian universe in which the game is set; in fact, the best way to think of it is that it is a break from said universe and brings in a touch of the familiar. But the effects of winning your game of Pipe Dream connect back to the game world; you hack a security bot so that it begins raining metal death on your enemies, you hack a vending machine so you can get heavily reduced rates on first aid kits, you hack a health machine so it shoots out poison whenever enemies try to use it.
Of course, BioShock isn't a serious game. But it is easy to imagine involving well-known common games in serious game tasks. Like what, you say? Well, I wouldn't want to be ruining my project proposal for everyone..
Buda Chiou 22:46, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
Chris Crawford's taxonomy of play activities is really a joke. First, solving a puzzle just like winning a game, which means the goal for a puzzle is just winning. Games, on the other hand, is not all about winning. There are many different types of game, and just part of the games contain "winning" element. In addition to the simulation games many people mentioned above, there is a kind of game called visual novel, which is an interactive fiction game that player's interaction is limited to clicking to keep the text moving. At some points user will be asked to select a decision, which will affect the story line of the game. In this case, the goal for player is just to finish the story.
Making an objective other than entertaiment is not really hard. In fact, every game should be designed for some education purposes. I believe all people have learned something from the game they played. For me, the difficulty of serious game is not about what should I put in a game to make it educational but what "shouldn't" I put. Sadly, game components that are considered to be interesting are usually have bad influence on players, like battles, fraud, stealing, and drug. Even though adding these components may make the game more interesting, I decided not to put these in my game.
Stuart Bottom 02:11, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree that a game needs some sort of “victory” aspect to motivate the player, but I also believe the threshold of winning is not always determined by or accomplished with a mechanism built into the game. The difference between puzzles and games is that in many cases, “winning” a puzzle is very well defined beforehand by the game designer, but winning a game is often determined to a large degree by the player. The objectives of a game often serve as metrics for a player to determine when he or she “wins,” thus, what is considered a winning outcome for one person may be completely different for another. For example, a novice game player may “win” in their mind if they are just able to collect two power-ups before dying, but a serious gamer might “win” only if they complete the whole level. As Perry Lee pointed out, even in an MMPORG there may be no levels to complete, but players can “win” for themselves everyday by meeting their own objectives within the game. I would argue it is not just the action of playing that is satisfying, but that users are in fact “winning” (sometimes subconsciously) as they complete various tasks within the world.
The challenge to make external “serious” objectives fit with traditional “fun” objectives often comes down to a question of fluidity, I believe. As creators of serious games, we are asked to affect the real world from within the game world, which requires that something cross the implicit boundary between the two. This is no small task, especially when the arena of gameplay is operating under a vastly different set of rules than real life. The key is to have an indirect and non-explicit effect on the player’s actions both during and after the game, without him or her realizing it. This can often be accomplished by immersing the player so fully in the game world that they forget what they are doing there affects objectives in the real world as well. This achieves the fluid transition over the boundary by effectively engaging the whole mind in gameplay, integrating the serious objectives with the fun ones. Otherwise the player may categorize the game into two parts, the fun and not-so-fun; they may enjoy manipulating the character in the game world but not like it when the character suddenly stops and makes them solve a word or math problem, as is the case with some children’s educational games like Operation Neptune. This is an example of a non-fluid boundary transition: the player is merrily “playing” the game when all of a sudden a math problem pops up. The challenge then, is to integrate math into the game so fluidly that the child forgets they are “solving” problems and instead focuses on the game itself (which may happen to have objectives that require math skills). It is a subtle distinction, but one worthy of very careful attention; it may mean the difference between the popular success or failure of a game.
Gary Wu 02:53, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree that games are rule-based systems that needs victory/defeat as a means of motivation. As stated in the article, puzzles have solutions and thus have little replay value. Games can be won and lost, but the outcome is (usually) unpredictable. Once puzzles are figured out, the motivation to play it is gone. When games are won, players continue to play it because there are many ways to win. Games involve responding to another player's or computer's actions. The winning objective in a games is the measure of involvement of the player.
One challenge in fitting external objectives in a game is to mask the real world counterpart of the objective. For example, why do users of the Wii find exerting themselves to the point of perspiration and increased heart activity fun, while doing a cardiovascular exercise in the same amount of time hard and complicated? The simple fact of the matter is that reality is not fun. The game has to suspend the rules of life and have the players take a "lusory attitude" towards the game.
Anthony Kilman 03:49, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
The section regarding conflict was a bit confusing. When I first read the subject heading, I thought it was going to be a discussion on how the objective of most games is to 'beat the other guy' (quoting Lombardi). This would make perfect sense. The objective of 'Go Fish' is to beat the other players by obtaining as many 'books' as you can. Quake is to beat the computer. But instead it was really a discourse on how you shouldn't break the rules or the other players who are following the rules are going to be pissed off at you.
Additionally, I don't think a game really needs an objective to be entertaining. Example: GTA 4 with cheat codes. The entertaining element is the ability to able control someone in an alternate universe; where in this case there isn't a predefined goal. But using the logic in the reading, because you are breaking the rules you are no longer "playing" the game. If you are not "playing" the game, there is no objective. But the game itself can still be wildly entertaining, because you are no longer bound by the rules of the game.
Haosi Chen 03:53, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Chris Crawford's taxonomy of "play activities" distinguishes games as needing a means of "winning" the game. Games are always need victory/defeat to motivate the players. Like what it said in the puzzle section of the article, people will lose the motivation and interest once they complete the puzzles, because there is no reason for them to do the puzzle over and over again. But for a game, player can be win and lost, either result will motivate the players to play the game over and over again. The player who lost would want to play again to be the winner, the player who won will try to keep winning and try to find different way to win. The winning objective in a games is the measure of involvement of the player.
Shyam Vijayakumar 04:16, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Chris Crawford’s taxonomy of play activities with regards to associating games with the need for the players to win. Some students have pointed out that there are games out there that seemingly do not provide any means for the players to win. For example, Juan Padilla pointed out World of Warcraft and Second Life because the players can create characters and have control over them in an alternate reality without there being a clear-cut way for players to win. However, I believe that even within the framework that each of these seemingly “unwinnable” games, the players can create their own objectives to achieve in order to win. For example, someone playing Second Life could make a character that is a professional tennis player. Now, the character can play in different tournaments and try to win that way. Of course, there is no official rule out there that says winning a tennis tournament means that the player has won at Second Life. But the player himself can set that as his winning objective and decide to pursue it in the alternate reality of Second Life.
When I play a game, I want to win. Others, however, don’t really place that much emphasis on winning. Lots of people simply play a game because it is fun and they like the interaction they get with others. For these people, I believe it would be difficult to fit external objectives with objectives of a typical game. If these people play a serious game without the intention of winning every time, then they might as well go out and do the real-life activity instead of playing the game that it is based on. The entire reason that a serious game is made with respect to a real-life activity is because that real-life activity is not fun to do. So, winning objectives are created by the game designer in order to blend the real-life activity with the objective-oriented game reality and in the process, add an entertainment aspect to another wise boring activity.
Jimmy Nguyen 04:20, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Competition is what drives people. Whether the competition is amongst a player and other players, or just one person trying to achieve a goal in "winning" the game, this is what drives people to win. There's usually some sort of challenging aspect that keeps players engaged, and once that goal is reached and you "win", then that feeling of satisfaction is what keeps people going. I have a friend who's not really great at video games, but when he does win, he always says "Wow.. that felt great". Even when people play sports, people don't play just to play the game, but rather to compete and to win. People like to be good at things and strive towards perfection, but if things get too easy, then things get to boring. The challenge in winning needs to be there.
Trinhvo 04:45, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Chris Crawford's taxonomy of "play activities" (in the section on puzzles) distinguishes games as needing a means of "winning" the game. The role of victory/defeat is the key that make games different from other activities such as puzzles, toys and so on. When a player is playing a game, there's no guarantee that the player will always be a winner. The outcome is uncertainty so it will motivate the player to play the game over and over again without getting bored of it.
There are a lot of external challenges to serious games. Since others have talked about Wii fitness game, I would like to discuss educational games. Some teachers won't see educational games as a useful tool that helps students learn more effectively. They're afraid they games would keep them busy to do their jobs and become a threat to their jobs.
Antony Setiawan 05:29, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I somewhat agree with Fullerton in some way. Even though some games may need the means of victory/defeat as a boost to the game itsefl, I found out that winning/losing does not always work for all games. For instance, let say we have a eating contest game that requires mashing combination of buttons within a given time period. There's no win/defeat condition for that game. When the time runs out, the player will be given a score that will be put in the hall-of-fame a.k.a high scrore board. The motivation for this kind of games will be pride (to have his/her name listed on top of the board). Of course, some may argue that the top scorer will be the winner and all others below it are defeated. However, the winning condition that Chris describes are different with the argued winning condition.
The challenges downs to the players in my opinion. A serous-game designer have two options while designing his/her game: accomplish the means of either fit or fun (1); or both (2). Let use wii's tennis game. Can we really say that playing that game can make us hit the ball correctly in the real world? If that game is changed to be more "educated" i.e. by creating a 1:1 wii-racket and adding some more complex sensor with shock effect, guess who will play the game. Most player will only found themself home-running the ball out of the court and later on became frustrated and staop playing. Only some range of people who really interested in playing tennis will enjoy the hardcoreness of the game. Make it more fun and easy, then only certain people would like it.
Paul Im 05:40, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with Chris Crawford’s analysis. Without some type of resolution, there would be no reason to continue playing a game. All the rules, boundaries, and challenges could be in place, but without a final objective to reach, we would have an incomplete game. We would be missing a vital factor in the ‘sum of the parts’ of the game. Why go through the trouble of going through challenges if there is no self-gratification in the end?
There would be a couple of challenges. Obviously, the seriousness of the task is the reason why we need to create the game in the first place. If the task at hand was fun and entertaining, a game wouldn’t be necessary. In this sense, the game would need to implement the steps of the serious task in an engaging manner. If the internal objectives aren’t exactly the same as the external objectives, they need to be constructed in such a way that they accurately reflect the external objectives in a parallel manner.
Kumar Garapaty 05:42, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Games do require some level of victory or defeat to achieve a sense of accomplishment by overcoming the conflict and challenge described in the article. The gamer is immersed in this closed system where the possibility of achieving success motivates them emotionally and dramatically to play the game.
The challenges for fitting external objectives with objectives of a typical game are communicating the serious information of external objectives while making it interesting through internal objectives so as not to bore the reader. This may require masking the external objectives within the internal objectives. If there is too much information it may dissuade the gamer to continue playing. If there is not enough serious information communicated through the game, the game loses its purpose. Therefore, the balance between these two objectives will be difficult to create.
MuQing Jing 06:05, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I do agree that all games require a condition of "winning" in order to motivate the player. However, you would have to define "winning" very broadly, as opposed to treating it as a black-and-white boolean. For example, in World of Warcraft, there isn't really a conclusion or end state. However, players motivate themselves with milestones, such as achieving level 60 (or 70 or whatever it is now) or beating some massively insane boss. In this sense, those actions can be considered winning, because they have accomplished a predefined goal. Even though the player may play forever until they physically die (or the game is no longer supported), the concept of winning still exists. Obviously, once those milestones are met, the motivation to keep playing suddenly drops, which illustrates how all games require a feeling of "winning" or accomplishment to drive the player forward.
The difficulties with having external objectives conform with internal objectives of the game is that, typically, it is unrealistic to project those internal objectives into the physical realm onto a broad audience. Certainly, it is doable (as the Wii has demonstrated), but in other situations, it is near impossible, counterproductive, or litigation-prone. Certain games, like Grand Theft Auto, could never combine external objectives with internal objectives as the game inherently binds with the human curiosity of performing or committing acts that they are not allowed to do. Rather than trying to mold external objectives into something that would fit in with the internal objectives, some developers have decided to take the approach of changing the internal objective to fit that of external objectives. For example, Brain Age has the external objective of supposedly making you more knowledgeable, while having the internal objective of scoring higher by answering questions correctly.
Mohammed Ali 06:18, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Crawford. The idea of victory and defeat provides a huge motivation for play during a game. Usually a player takes upon himself a task to win the game, assigning this task to him or herself to achieve this victory. This task is then closely assigned to a players ego and self respect and adds to their sense of accomplishment. Accomplishment is indeed the motivator to many things in life. A career goal, monetary goal, education goal is all similar to gaining the victory during the game. Even if a clear boundary of victory is not given in a game, the overall progress can be enough to satisfy a player. Most games have intermediate victories that come along before the final victory can be reached. Role playing games for example have intermediate levels that a character can reach that promotes that character to the next level. These promotions encourage the game player to continue playing again feeding to his or her ego and sense of accomplishment.
There are many challenges in accomplishing the external objectives of serious games. In education for example, the challenge is the same universal challenge that all teachers are facing; to make learning fun! Some might see education to be inherently boring, however, with games, this goal can indeed be fulfilled. There are limits of course in how much of this can be achieved. For a person no so good at math, a challenging math game might not be fun at all. So determining the correct amount of difficulty is vital in for the success of serious game.
Another factor in implementing serious games is the level at which they can imitate real life. This can very well be the most challenging part of achieving external objectives. For example, a game in teaching financial responsibility can only do so much in describing real world financial problems. The real world itself can be the best teacher over contrived scenarios.
Frank Yang 06:46, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
While I do agree that games should have some sort of "winning" state in order for the player to strive for something, I believe that games are slowly changing to reach a different goal. I believe now that games made now to simply engage the player in a new world, or provide a good story to tell (which is arguably the idea behind many RPGs nowadays). Games are now on a completely different scale compared to the ones 15 years ago. Games now have gameplay times of 20+ hours, which would be ridiculous to finish in one setting. While before, "winning" might have been beating a stage or the game itself, I believe it is now just a matter of surviving. I don't think there is so much a sense of accomplishment for reaching a certain part of a game, but simply enjoying the gameplay itself or just enjoying the story that is being told. With a game like Portal, where every room is a puzzle, there should be no replay value for the game once you have beaten it if the game itself were not fun to play. The popularity of MMORPGs today show that "winning" in the case of MMO games is simply an issue of being better than another human player. That feeling of being better is the feeling of accomplishment because you have survived and "lived" more than the other. What other reason is there to continue playing World of Warcraft after attaining the maximum level?
There are a lot of difficulties with having external objectives conform with internal objectives of the game simply because the external objectives affect the player directly, and not the character the player is controlling. Arguably, people play video games in order to take the role of someone else, someone whose strengths do not actually correlate with the physical attributes of the player. However, if you are enjoying yourself while learning or exercising, as the Wii has somewhat successfully done, the player's mind is taken off the idea that they are indeed exercising and focused on achieving the goal, which could be beating the opponent, completing a level, or achieving a new high score. The external objective must be a bonus in the player's mind. I feel that in order to have the external objectives successfully conform with internal objectives, the internal objectives must be strong enough to capture the player's mind completely. The external objective may be noted as a reminder to the player after the internal objective is completed, simply to alert the player that his or her mental or physical health has improved from the completion of the internal objective, but the external objective must not overpower the internal one in any means.
Cynthia T. Hsu 06:49, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Like many of the previous posters, I feel that the example of the popularity of MMORPG games which have no concrete sense of victory or defeat are a stark example of instances when this is not the sole motivator of playng a game. However, I also agree with the points that Stuart Bottom brought up - MMORPGs, while not ever ending with a win or a loss, have their own small subset of tasks and challenges; in a sense, a completion of a particular one of these challenges each day is enough to give the sense of victory necessary for gaming, even if the game itself never ends. In fact, I feel it is the fact that these games do not have a concrete, definitive victory that makes them so appealing - the number of different ways you can win becomes very personal, as the means of winning is different each day and the challenge never ends. Because there is no real sense of loss or defeat, when you lose at a particular task, you know you can persist in trying again to accomplish it, and thus, you can feel the result of a cumulative and dedicated effort and don't have to get discouraged by a single loss. Thus, the character becomes a long-term investment. In contrast, short-term games like Yahoo! Games or Tetris are very fun, but do not develop the level of interest and interaction that other games do, because the game is dependent on a very binary sense of victory that is irrelevant by the time the game ends ten minutes later. Because these have in essence a terminal win state as opposed to a continuous winning/losing state, these games can be played but do not develop the level of interest that the more long term ones do.
I would disagree with Vedran's comment that not very many people play Tetris anymore. I read an interesting paper (that I'm having trouble finding, sorry) that made a distinction between a serious gamer and a trivial gamer. For a trivial gamer, the brief win/loss sense is enough to motivate the game playing - however, a trivial gamer would never be able to allocate the time necessary to make the long-term, personalized sense of accomplishment built up by accomplishing a series of minor tasks (whose importance are open to interpretation) as shown in an RPG game. With this in mind, I find Wii tennis a very good example in which the intensity of the physical challenge will effect the interest in the game. In essence, the people who gain fitness through Wii tennis are those who appreciate it because it seems less strenuous than real tennis; the physical value of the game must be decreased to increase the level of entertainment for those who do not appreciate the physical value of the game. In contrast, the very serious tennis players are able to see the subtler aspects of winning and losing in the game - they have invested enough time in it to get a sense of the physical improvement they experience by playing, and this is their sense of "victory" that is much more difficult for someone new to the sport to understand. For someone who is not a serious tennis player, the artificial constructs of a much less physical game are necessary.
I think this is a serious limitation on how much can be taught through serious games - if you have to learn as much in the game as you do in using the real world subject, why would you play the game instead of the real thing in the first place?
Mike Kendall 06:52, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Do I think that a game needs a way of winning? Yes and no. I like finishing a game. When I see "The End," I set the game down. For a lot of my friends, this isn't enough for them. They have to play a game to death. Get every item, do every sidequest, they don't finish a game until there's nothing left to do. For them, winning isn't important. Look at the popularity of Grand Theft Auto 3 and many other sandbox games... Although there is a way to finish GTA3, that's not the reason why people like it so much. Or consider something like Animal Crossing or even World of Warcraft. Any massively multiplayer game is advertising to something other than "winning." In all three of these games, the answer is that the player gets to play God, I suppose (in the case of WoW, you level up to the point that you are God to other players). In a sense you win just by playing.
It's hard to make any part of a game affect real life, let alone in a positive way. The biggest theoretical or logical roadblock between a game affecting goals in your personal life is that the game is an escape. For many people, the point of the game is to get away from the real world. Life and work are scary and stressful, but in the world of Mario Bros., there are very few rules to think about. Even if the game is hard, you don't have to worry about finding Mario food or a toilet... All he can do is run and jump. By definition, there is a divide between the real world and the game world, so it makes perfect sense that serious games are hard to get right.
Shaharyar Muzaffar 07:26, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I personally believe what makes a game success is that it needs to provide the user with some sort of sense of accomplishment. This feeling could come from completing a puzzle, killing an enemy, or defeating another player. However, this sense of accomplishment must come from a task which actually challenges the player. For example, no college student would play a game that involves answering single digit addition problems, because it would be nearly impossible for them not answer correctly. A real sense of accomplishment comes from knowing you were able to complete a task through time and effort.
Furthermore, successful, I believe, tend to be innovative or provide the user some new type of experience. For example, games such as Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, and Wii Sports all were successful, because they provided the user with a new way of interacting with the game. Also, games such as Katamari Damashi and Portal provided users with a fresh and innovative set of tasks for the user to complete. However, not all successful games need to be entirely new, but instead they can just improve the game. For example, there exist many Real-Time Strategy games; however, StarCraft included distinct races in an interesting background story which made it very successful.
Volodymyr Kalish 07:54, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
In the reading, on page 29, Chris Crawford says: “We don't need to accomplish all of our objectives to have a successful life. In games, however, the objective is the key element without which the experience loses much of its structure, and our need to work toward the objective is the measure of our involvement in the game.” I disagree with Chris Crawford because I played a game that doesn't force players to follow a story line or objectives. A player gets to decide what his/her objectives are and just enjoy moving around and living a life inside a gaming environment – a complete freedom in actions. The game I am talking about is: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. So, even though the game doesn't enforce anything on the player, meaning that the player does not have to lose or win, the randomness and A.I. engine make the gaming environment interesting enough to explore and enjoy. Also, I believe that this feature actually made the game such a great hit. On the flip side of a coin, if a player decides to try to win the game, he/she can do so by following objectives just like in Quake. This revolutionary idea of freedom in the game not only made the game interesting, but also very profitable since it covered a wide range of players, starting from those who like to traditionally follow the objectives, to the ones who enjoy exploration and care less about the objectives.
Jeffrey Rosen 07:59, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Crawford's taxonomy, but only to the extent that it is vague enough that we can put "winning" in quotations. Pac-Man is a simple example. Certainly, it qualifies as a game, yet, it has no winning condition. You can play it until you get an integer overflow and the game crashes (maybe). Crawford would argue that it has discrete tasks that you much accomplish and therefore each level is a mini-game and you are "winning" as you go along. Ok, so what if we make a Pac-Man game with no end to the level? Just an infinite grid, and you try to collect as many dots before you finally hit a ghost. Surely, we would define that as a game, and there is not even a level to beat. However, we could then define "winning" as collecting a few dot before you are eaten and each dot- collection is considered a mini-game. Essentially what I am trying to say, is that, sure, if you define "winning" as whatever you want it to mean, then yes, every game can be "won", and thus Crawford's taxonomy has no exceptions.
I am not sure I see the contention in the second question. Surely you can adapt most any game to be a serious game quite easily. I mean, at the very least, you could pause the game at discrete intervals and teach the user a vocab word. If the game has a plot, you could change the plot to fit an educational, historical event. If the game has some sort of user input, you could require the user to stand on a Wii Fit style controller and get exercise. Even if the game requires keyboard input, you could theoretically have a giant keyboard mat and make the user run from letter to letter. Assuming the game requires a power source, you could put the player on a power generating exercise bike generates the power for the console or TV. Even in the simplest example, a game of solitaire, you could, for example, ask the user to solve a math problem before they can flip the next card on the stack. Just some random ideas...
Billy Grissom 08:28, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with the idea of games needing a means of winning a game. If something doesn’t have a form of victory/defeat then it …well…really isn’t much of a game. Even MMOs, for instance have some form of achievement. Sure there may never be a final level or conclusive ending in these games but there is the sense of need. Players keep on playing to get the best armors, the best weapons, the best stats. The game itself may not present a sense of victory or defeat, but the atmosphere and community it creates does. In addition to this most successful MMOs constantly keep putting out patches and updates. Changing the game changes the playing field and the conditions of “victory/defeat.”
If a game doesn’t have these features then there’s no real need for a player to stick around and play the game…or at least if they do stick around then the thing they’re interacting with isn’t for gaming purposes. Again, if an MMO was very limited and had little quest and things to do then a player who sticks around is most likely there for the community rather than the gameplay. That isn’t a game…it’s a freaking 3D chatroom. So you see, games need a sense of victory and defeat it’s the very definition of a game. It may not be very obvious, but a good game will always create this atmosphere somehow.
As for serious games, I think one of the hardest things they have to deal with is taking something serious and actually making it a game. Simulators are a good example of this. Microsoft Flight Simulator would be even more dole and boring if it weren’t for the ability to have missions and do things. Players need something to motivate them to use the tools in the game…otherwise the thing ends up being more of just a simple simulator rather than a fun engaging experience. Kind of like the toothbrush thing in class, serious games seem to have the mission of tricking its players into doing something that may not always seem fun…educational. Think of Oregon Trail for example. Kids from my generation now everything about that game, and as a result also know a lot about being a pioneer and what the Oregon Trail was like. If that game didn’t have the great sense of victory and determination that it did then it would be boring and more of a history lesson than a game. The key is to hide the history lesson within the game. It’s like feeding a baby his vegetables. If you force it into his mouth he won’t want it. However, if you tell him it’s an airplane wanting to come in and land…he might just give it second thoughts and actually enjoy it. Artists use lies to tell the truth. I guess the essence of serious gaming is kind of utilizing this technique.
Witton Chou 08:58, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I think there is a difference in opinion of what constitutes "winning." Throughout the discussions on this page, we have seen examples in which games do not have a well defined "ending," like MMORPGs (like World of Warcraft) or Tetris, in which there is a clear cut sense of winning (you have saved the princess... *roll credits*). This notion of "winning" can be achieving a certain goal laid out by the parameters of the game, such as achieving first place on the high scores list of Tetris or aquiring certain pieces of gear in Quake or killing a particular boss in World of Warcraft. Not always will you receive a prize or congratulations but a goal is achieved -- is this not considered winning? I agree that games need a means of winning -- there must be a purpose/goal and the process of achieving the goal, whatever it may be, is what defines the game and gives players motivation.
Likewise, serious games have the objective of teaching the player. Just as games without a well defined notion of "winning" can have goals determined by the player himself, serious games can create goals that the player would otherwise create for himself. For example, creating some sort of reward for achieving a new high score in Tetris would take a common objective of Tetris players and set the goal in stone. In many cases, the motivation for achieving the new high score would be greater than when a player defines the goal for himself. This idea can be applied to a game interface and award goals for completing an objective for something they are learning through this game.
Alan McCreary 09:02, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Like many other people here, I disagree with the idea that an explicit means of winning is necessary in a game – I'd say most games have this characteristic, but not all. For example, as Juanpadilla mentions, Second Life is a game that doesn't seem to offer any way of “winning.” However, for this particular example, one could define winning in the same way that one might define winning in real life – friendships, money, popularity, and so on. I think what's most important is that a game offer the player some way of showing dominance or personal value. In an MMORPG, this might mean having more dexterity points than another player; and in a sport like basketball, this might mean being an integral team player without which the team would be much weaker. For some single-player games, winning can mean being better than other human players at that game. For example, with Pac-Man, which Jeff brought up, one might feel victorious if he is able to go through more levels than his friend. I suppose I agree with Crawford, then, if “winning” doesn't have to be defined by the creator of the game.
Karen Tran 09:51, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
To some extend, I agree with Chris Crawford’s taxonomy of "play activities" distinguishes games as needing a means of "winning" the game. It’s just like praising a kid when s/he does something right. The praising is an encouragement, a reward, that s/he should do it again. So playing video games is the same in that context. Most of the games we know have some goals that the player is trying to achieve. The objective of the game is to attain that goal by a lot of trying, a lot of ‘game over.’ Having the goal motivates the player to not give up, to give him something to work for. Achieving the goal is considered ‘winning.’ Players strike to ‘win.’ And “winning” gives them that same satisfaction feeling that praising does because it leads them to think that they are ‘good.’ However, not all games are meant to have a ‘winning’ goal. Players of virtual games such as ‘second life’ are motivated by not winning, but the feeling of being in control of their character, of the alternate worlds – something more ‘perfect’ and controllable than real life. So I think, it really depends on the player’s motivation, what s/he seeks from a game. Crawford’s opinion might be over-generalizing.
The main challenge in making external objectives of serious games “fit” the objectives of a typical game is, again, to provide motivation. I think first of all, the designer should think about what theme the game is geared towards and design the game in that aspect. Let the theme guide the game design. If the game is meant to be an education game for the kids, then the kids might be more interested in winning a reward rather than being in control of an alternate world.
Hao Luo 10:17, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Although winning a game is one of the most important aspects to gaming, it is not essential in every single game. For example, the Sims is a game where a player does not "win" but rather interacts with the game in different ways and (usually) come up with his own goals within the game. Reaching those goals are different from "winning the game." Still, the concept of winning the game exists within almost all games, such that for almost all practical cases we can consider winning to be a defining aspect of what makes the game a game, although technically this is not completely accurate.
Serious games can have trouble making its external objectives fit within gaming objectives because serious games have different goals other than entertainment, yet for them to be considered games they must fit certain requirements, such as engaging the player(s). Thus the external objectives sometimes need to be modified in order for serious games to function as games. One big challenge is that non-serious games are usually made for entertainment, so serious games often need to be modified such that they are entertaining while still achieving their external goals. An educational game should be entertaining while achieving its external goal of educating at the same time.
nathanyan 10:28, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
It seems like a few people are talking about "winning" in the classic sense (beat the end-boss, conquered the opposing player, etc.) While a lot of games feature such a winning condition, not all games have such an ultimate win or lose case. In fact the activity for a lot of games has many short-term "goals" that the player can try to achieve, and either "win" by achieving them or "lose" by failing. RPG-type games are a prime example of this. In something open-ended like The Sims, there really is no such thing as an end-game win/lose scenario. However, users still play it as a game - there are non-conclusive goals such as earning an extra cooking skill point, getting promoted, or establishing a relationship that motivates the player to play the game in order to achieve them, even though achieving (or failing to achieve) the goals are not ultimate "win" or "lose" cases.
Without a goal of some sort, I agree with the reading's classification that the "type of play" is really just a toy. You can play with it, but you can stop at any time or pick it up again with no change in the experience. Because a goal exists in a puzzle or game, a player can be in various states of progress towards achieving something.
I think it's important to realize that what classifies something as a toy or a game or puzzle really depends on a user's attitude towards it. Using the The Sims as an example, a player might simply wander around aimlessly, interact with objects, and engage in conversation with other characters. In this case, the player really has no purpose or goal - The Sims is now functioning as a digital Barbie playset, so it's really nothing more than a toy. On the other hand, another player may direct his character to go to work, go to bed, interact with kitchen appliances to build up cooking skills, and converse with other characters in order to establish relationships. The Sims is being "played" with in the exact same manner as before, with the user controlling the program and his character in all the same ways, but it's now clearly a game, with the player actively trying to achieve goals.
As for the second discussion question, I guess the main issue is translating "serious games" to serious business. In a lot of educational "games", the game can effectively teach a skill or concept in the context of the game - the issue then becomes how to translate that into real world use.
A useful way to do this is to encapsulate, rather than integrate, the educational concept inside the game. For example, take a simple arithmetic game. In an effort to integrate the learning experience into something "fun", one might implement arithmetic puzzles within the game environment - picking out coins to give as change in a cash register game, for example. The problem with this is that even when the user learns the skill (how to multiply and add with different quantities of coins), the user's experience is stuck in the context of the game. In this case, a master of the game might be able to calculate change extremely proficiently. Yet, their experience may be so confined to using arithmetic to process coins that they are totally unable to use the skills to solve general arithmetic problems. In contrast, a game like Number Munchers, for example, presents the game that tasks the user with solving generic arithmetic problems. A player for this game should find translating the skills to real-world applications much more natural, since the learning process hasn't been pidgeon-holed into a very narrow context. However, it's arguably not as fun or engaging (although I loved it as a child, but perhaps future math/engineering students aren't quite representative of the general K-5 population).
Xuexin Zhang 11:18, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Crawford's idea that games needs the meaning of "winning" the game. When a human player play a game, they expected themselves to win the game; as they could prove themselves to other people by winning the game. The moment of victory is as much entertaining as the player experience during the game. However, players loss to the game from time to time. It's very difficult for the player to admit being defeated; and they would be more motivated to play the game to win.
The major challenge of how to integrate the external objective with the internal objective is to provide player an entertaining and engaging experience to hide away external objective. Try to imagine that Guitar Hero's input device is a standard keyboard instead of a fancy guitar shaped controller; no one would ever find it attractive as a game.
Jacekmw 11:51, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Though, as Crawford mentioned in his article, not all games (e.g., The Sims or the SimCity series, etc) have what can be necessarily called an end or a clearly defined victory point. However, these games do do a good job of giving plenty of shorter-term goals and creating many constant mini-victory situations. In SimCity, this might be typified by the realization that the city is in the red, and you as mayor must balance the budget quickly. The townspeople give you a round of applause when you do, a clear positive reinforcement that should by all means be interpreted as one of these "mini-victory" situations. The majority of games feature clearer-cut victories against other opponents or your own previous "best time" or some such record.
Serious games are not often very popular because of the very fact combining the internal gameplay objectives and fun elements with the serious learning the game is meant to foster. Wii Fit and Wii Sports, however, are one example that a fitness game, one type of serious game, is very clearly possible to make very popular. Most video games and many board games could be considered serious by some - first person shooter video games could be considered military troop training, strategy games could be considered military general training, etc. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero (debatably) help teach youth to play instruments. However, the majority of these aren't meant primarily as learning tools, and as such I can safely say that incorporating those serious learning lessons into a game with sub-objectives is difficult.
Jonathan Fong 13:35, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
On my Palm (Pilot) PDA, I have hundreds of programs, all placed into categories. In the "Games" category, there is a guilty-pleasure called "Noah's Arc." The gameplay is simply to match up blocks into pairs, scoring points, and advancing to the next level; this goes on indefinitely as far as I can figure out: because the game pauses when I quit and resumes when I come back, I am on level 175 and my score is currently 4017005. There is no defeat (not even a time requirement), nor victory, yet I still consider this a "game." In fact, of the dozens of games on my PDA, this is one of the more frequently-played ones. Why? First, the rules and gameplay are simple, yet there is a bit of variety on every level. Second, though there is no time limit, faster level completion is rewarded, so there is a challenge to always try to go faster. Third, there is mystery on how far the game will actually let me go, so I keep going to see if I can find where it will stop me. (So finding the boundaries that Fullerton describes are actually part of the challenge of the game)
For games where gameplay does not closely simulate or resemble the external objectives, it is very difficult to succeed in fitting the internal-external objectives together. When a game simulates an activity, and the external objective is simply to teach the same activity, there is no challenge. When the designer has to sneak in the external objective or put a twist on the internal motive, the cost is always the entertainment value of the game, thus decreasing the desireability of playing the game. Game designers, therefore, have to become knowledgeable in the human mind and the learning process to indirectly influence the player, creating an environment and/or culture that supports the external objectives.
Geoffrey Lee 17:01, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
Not all games have victory/defeat. Spore is one such game in which the player has a (potentially) infinite number of aliens to contact and explore. Rather, I would argue that games have rewards, and the most common reward is victory. Another common type of reward is achievements such as medals, high-scores, or social prestige. For example, one could devise a version of Tetris that never ended, and the goal would be to obtain the highest score possible.
Saliem Than 18:14, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
I think all games can be described and framed in terms of some sort of victory or defeat. For example, take running. Or running by yourself. At first thought, you'd think that there is no victory, because there is no other human, not even, computer opponent. But it can be described as a victory. What if the runner / game player had the goal of running at a record time? If the runner were to, that would be a victory in itself. If the runner is not able to reach a certain goal, then that would be a defeat. Even if the runner did not see running as victories and defeats, the runner would still enjoy the novelty of a new route, there might be something surprising or unexpected that is experienced by the runner/ gameplayer that will create a lot of satisfaction.
Kevin Lam 17:25, 8 September 2008 (UTC)
The concept of having a "winning" aspect to a game is highly dependent on the what we mean by "winning." In the context of having a victory/defeat role as described by Fullerton, including a "winning" aspect isn't always necessary. There are a number of games, like Spore as described above, where there isn't a clear victory/defeat criteria. However, there are generally objectives or rewards that encourage players to continue playing the game. With rewards or point systems, players can set their own victory criteria and play towards their goals. In that sense, there is a "winning" aspect to most successful games and I would argue that it is a necessary component to keep a player captivated. Without this sense of motivation (whether it is facilitated by the game or done personally by the player), the player can easily lose interest (even when there are benefits involved, such as personal health) because there is no clear objective to work towards. Especially in today's day and age, with high expectations for speed and responsiveness players are more likely to become disinterested in a game unless there is a clear benefit.
With respect to making an external benefit "fit" into a game, I think the success of that "fit" largely depends on how seamlessly the benefit is incorporated into the game. Wii is most definitely not the first console to incorporate a physical input to a game, but its success is due in part to how responsive and realistic the user controls are. If Wii tennis were clunky or didn't respond to the user's movements very well, the console would not be nearly as successful as it is today. This point applies to other benefits in the sense that if you can make the user forget there is an external benefit and keep him or her focused on the game itself (during game play), the game will likely be more successful.
James Yeh 00:30, 9 September 2008 (UTC)
The concept of a winning configuration for a game is not necessary to define a game or for a game to be successful. In fact, in many games in the simulation and MMORPG genre, the main goal is not “winning” the game. For example, in the game Second Life, the focus of the game is not on winning (because there is no clear way to win at this game) but for the player to live out a fantasy life and interact with the rest of the players in the game. In this case, Second Life acts as an outlet of escape from reality, and the satisfaction gained from being a part of a realistic online community is enough to keep players coming back for more. A similar scenario arises in another popular game, World of Warcraft; the sense of community from being part of a guild is a major aspect that makes this game fun, and the sense of accomplishment that players feel from obtaining a rare piece of equipment fuels a desire to continue playing.
Sometimes it can be hard for a serious game to align in-game objectives to external objectives. In many cases, it is hard to attract players to external objectives that they do not have at least some slight interest in already. Oftentimes, if a game involves something that a person does not like doing, then that person will not want to play that game. For example, it is hard to get somebody who despises math to play Math Blaster, or someone who strongly dislikes exercising to get up and play Wii Fit. As a result, game designers either have to accept alienating certain players or cleverly disguise an unpopular activity into the more fun aspects of the game. Some games have had varying degrees of success with this approach, but there appears to be a tradeoff between a game that closely relates to a real world activity and one that retains the fun aspects of a game for everybody.
Mikeboulos 00:57, 9 September 2008 (UTC)
The Concept of wining a game is more challenging is more appealing than just looking at a game with no goal, or open ended, for example playing Tennis. The user chooses to compete against the game, or against other online players. The smaller steps towards the final win (ie: defeating the opponent on the first set usually helps the player to perform better as they see progress towards the goal, which is to defeat the other player), now the player won't stop after winning the first set but will continue to play all the sets till victory. Now if this player was on level one, s/he will have more confidence to go to the next level, or may be even skip a level and try the harder ones, even though s/he might loose on the highest level, they won't stop playing the game but will go the previous level try to beat it and then move on. This is because with winning there is positive reenforcement, which in return gives more satisfaction when playing the game.
One challenge for making external objectives "fit" with the objectives of the game is that external objectives might not be appealing or discouraging, for example if you let the player exhort to much energy while playing with Wii Fit and then don't give them enough points or rewards in the game they will most likely not play this game again. It should also be user friendly or easy to play with, for example making a tennis racket console that is the same size as the real racket, might seem like a good idea to achieve the external objective, but not every one live in a mansion so space will be a great problem. Also accuracy can be an issue here, since any movement of the console in a certain direction might result into the same outcome, this movement might not match with the animation on the screen, which will make it look unrealistic. The external objective shouldn't overshadow the internal objective, a balance should be maintained, because if a person wants to play tennis or exercise outdoors they won't take the console and start playing, but it should encourage them to do so, by making it more appealing by the internal objective. some of these things are hard to fix, but should be taken into consideration.
Bing Wang 05:44, 17 September 2008 (UTC)
Late post: Emailed the GSI regarding this already I somewhat agree with the idea that games do not need a winning outcome to be fun. I believe the more important aspect of that is your user audience. Some people might find games that doesn't have a winning or losing outcome to be more fun because you are not pressed to think and try to beat your opponent throughout the game. For some individuals, such action might not satisfy the definition of play anymore as you are always engaged in difficult situations where you have to make a decision or your will lose the game. Games are supposed to be fun and relaxing not make you think harder and get more stressful.
However, there is another aspect to this. Some people likes game that are challenging because they see it as a competition that they do not get elsewhere. They will prefer games that require a winning or losing outcome in order to have fun with it.
I believe both types of games are good and it really just depend on what type of game audience you are addressing here.